I'm in kind of a shitty mood as I begin to write this. A lot of stuff is going through my head, is all, and hopefully I can temporarily forget that as I think way too hard about stories that were evidently written by eight-year-olds.
Brief thoughts on the Royal Rumble:
- Well I sure called the tag team match wrong. Not only did Team Hell No retain and not break up, but Team Rhodes Scholars unexpectedly split just a few nights later. These developments have intrigued me however, and for the time being I'm glad things went down this way.
- On the other hand I called every other match correctly, including the Royal Rumble match being won by John Cena.
- The majority of the pay-per-view being so predictable wasn't so bad as how so many of the matches ended stupidly. I was not very high on the duct tape ending of the World Heavyweight Championship match, John Cena lightly shoving Ryback to eliminate him was anticlimactic, and The Rock suddenly going from zero to sixty in no time flat to hit the People's Elbow was absolute garbage.
- I like how the Divas match was cut for time but there were easily fifteen minutes of pointless backstage filler crammed into the show to pad it out.
- So overall the show was disappointing, but there were definitely some moments in the middles of matches that were really good. Unfortunately those endings just kind of whitewashed the whole viewing experience for me.
Off The Card:
Having been definitively taken out of the Elimination Chamber match on this week's Raw, Dolph Ziggler is not on the card at all. The last few times this has occurred, I have suggested this means he will cash in his Money in the Bank contract, but I have been wrong each time. Tons of people have made various fantasy booking choices for the World Heavyweight Championship involving Dolph. I've heard everything from Del Rio-Ziggler to Jericho-Ziggler to a fatal four-way involving all three men plus Big Show, so I'm not even going to bother making a prediction on it. I'm less interested in seeing who's involved in that match than I am in seeing how they actually get there.
Wade Barrett's feud with up-and-comer Bo Dallas has been kind of stupid. I'm not really sure that Barrett is in the position to be making new blood look good considering he hasn't really established a reputation as champion yet. I mean he's defended the title against Kofi Kingston and...that's it. Honestly, the play put on by both men has been better than I expected - Dallas isn't a very good talker, but the way he charges out into the arena jumping up and down and yelling at the top of his lungs seems appropriate for a young guy getting his first shot at the big leagues. It's clear that he's unsettled Barrett, not just with his success but with the way he's been succeeding. Barrett is used to being the craftiest and toughest guy in the ring, and the fact that Dallas has pulled a couple fast ones on him and is aggressively attacking him outside the ring doesn't fit in with Barrett's idea of what the pecking order is. But here's the thing - Barrett wasn't built up consistently before Dallas' arrival, so what does it matter? The two are doing a great job in the present sense, but there's no real weight to the idea of Dallas' wins as big upsets because Barrett's recent reputation isn't that strong. If only Barrett had won the Intercontinental Championship a little bit earlier - at TLC, rather than two weeks later - and had been consistently defeating opponents of merit. Easily dispatching Kingston, starting to regularly get the better of Orton instead of trading wins with him, and getting on a winning streak heading into Royal Rumble - possibly talked up as one of the favorites to win it all. Then Dallas eliminating him is a shock, and then defeating him has real meaning. Wins and losses have meaning, but only so long as everybody isn't stuck at .500.
Youtube Pre-Show Match: Brodus Clay and Tensai vs. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow
Didn't the Rhodes Scholars just break up? Can't you have Brodus and Tensai fight...I don't know. Primo and Epico? The Prime-Time Players? 3MB? It really undercuts the declaration that the two would end their tag team careers only to renew them mere weeks later. Then again I guess they're the only heel tag team of consequence right now.
So let's talk about this weird new development for Tensai. Just when things had hit rock bottom for him - he was a laughingstock that even Santino fucking Marella was getting the better of - all of a sudden he sinks below rock bottom by dancing in lingerie and then rebounds slightly in one of the stranger face turns I've seen. Let's try and make sense of this from the perspective of Tensai the character. You were in WWE a few years ago, then you left, went to Japan, and kicked all kinds of ass. Your craft refined, confidence swelling in your heart, you return to WWE and proceed to wreck shop for a few weeks. Then gradually you lose momentum - first you're closely losing to guys like Sheamus and Randy Orton, then some big bald freak who screams about eating people can't pick you up, and all of a sudden you lose all semblance of strength. Eventually schmucks like Santino are not only beating you, but laughing at you as they do it. You experience the ultimate humiliation for several weeks, and then some big mohawked freak laughs at your expense, but then invites you in on the fun. Now you've got some big intimidation thing you've had going on since you returned to the WWE, but lately it hasn't been working out for you. So...what the hell, right? You keep going back and forth between super serious mode and dancing like a goof, but you know what? All of a sudden you've got a friend now who's a lot like you - strong and talented, but losing a lot - except he seems to enjoy himself regardless. Why be a sourpuss if it's not doing you any good? Plus, he's got a couple of really hot girls who hang around him, and they don't seem to mind dancing with you. Hell, now that you look around, the crowd isn't chanting "AAAAAL-BERT" at you quite as much, either. Some of them look happy to see you, even. Uh-oh, you almost lost it there - PUT ON YOUR SERIOUS FACE, DAMN IT, DON'T SMILE IN FRONT OF THEM.
So yeah, it's kind of weird and the two were probably just put together because neither guy was doing anything and because "lol it'll be twice as funny with TWO dancing fat guys" but I can at least justify it in my head. Hell Kofi and R-Truth were tag team champions for a while and their only reason for teaming up seemed to be because they were both black. God watching this show makes me feel bad sometimes...
United States Championship Match: Antonio Cesaro (c) vs. The Miz
Holy shit Cesaro is so awesome. I could watch him swing Miz into the barricade like he's beating dirt out of a rug all fucking day. If there is anything good for us to take from Miz's face turn, it is that it makes Cesaro beating the crap out of him immensely entertaining. I want Miz to chase after the US title forever just so we can be repeatedly subjected to demonstrations of how much bigger, stronger, tougher, and just all around better Cesaro is than Miz at everything related to wrestling. For whatever reason, WWE crowds like Miz now, and that is good for Cesaro. The more crowds like Miz, the more they will take notice of how great Cesaro is for beating him over and over and over again, which is exactly what needs to happen.
Divas Championship Match: Kaitlyn (c) vs. Tamina Snuka
My god. Turns out no build is better than shitty build sometimes. The lead-up to this match has been so...sporadic. Tamina doesn't so much seem like a threat to Kaitlyn's championship reign so much as she does the only other competent female wrestler in the locker room following that bizarre lumberjills match the two had a few weeks ago. AJ can't return to competition fast enough.
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Alberto Del Rio (sí) vs. Big Show
On Raw, this feud has been fantastic. On Smackdown, this feud has been stupid. I am going to pretend Smackdown does not exist for the purposes of writing this article, because I don't want to comment on Del Rio jacking the wheels of Big Show's tour bus because herp a derp Mexicans.
Following the utterly fantastic follow-up the night after the Royal Rumble, this feud has lost a little bit of steam in my book. I can't really tell what tone WWE's writers are trying to set. It feels like things were supposed to have gotten serious when Big Show got the closest he could to outright torturing Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez in the middle of the ring, but a couple weeks later and bam, Ricardo's back and the two are joking around. Granted their joking around is the primary thing fueling Big Show's anger in this story, thus making him dangerous, but it seems like they should've wised up and stopped messing around by now. There's a time for laughs and a time for handling business seriously, and it feels like the writers want to have both. Really the only thing preventing this feud from being as good as it was - and probably better than - it was leading up to Royal Rumble, is a lack of consistency across both shows.
Elimination Chamber Match: Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Jack Swagger vs. Kane vs. Mark Henry vs. Randy Orton
Hooo boy, where to begin?
First of all, I love the idea of having the one traditional elimination chamber match on the card be for the number one contendership for the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania. Having the chamber match utilized as a sort of secondary, less special Royal Rumble match seems a lot cooler than trying to emphasize how supposedly unpredictable the match type is and how little chance the champion has of retaining. Both Punk and Bryan retained last year - in completely different manners - so that argument is out the window. Take the championship out of the equation and the conversation stops being about whether or not one person will retain, and instead actually about who will win. I hope WWE does this exact same thing next year.
Three different men made big returns recently to enter into this match. Jericho's return at Royal Rumble was a great surprise, Mark Henry doesn't seem to have missed a step since his departure, and Swagger has become a much more interesting character. On top of that, Bryan and Kane are back at each other's throats and it seems like they'll have a grudge match at Wrestlemania. And I guess there's some other dude in there too, but I can't seem to give a shit about him. But see, this is the great thing about this set-up: outside of the Tag Team Champions, I can easily see anyone winning this match. This is true unpredictability - everyone seems legitimately strong going into the match. Compare this one match to last year's two, which had WWE scraping the bottom of the barrel for any old guy to pad out the dozen competitors they needed, so you had Santinos and Great Khalis and R-Truths thrown in and of course nobody really thought any of them were going to win. The only questions on anybody's minds were: is Punk going to retain, and is Bryan going to retain? To which most people answered: probably, yeah. I'm far more excited about this match than I was about either of last year's.
John Cena, Ryback, and Sheamus vs. The Shield
...But oh man, if this match gets put in the Elimination Chamber too, that'll be fucking great. We can only hope.
So apparently even following the three-on-three match at TLC a couple months ago, it still took for fucking ever for the good guys in the WWE locker room to go, "You know these Shield guys are kicking our ass. Maybe we should try taking them on as a team instead of getting ambushed five times a night." I have the same problem with this match that I did with the lead-up to the match at TLC, however: if The Shield loses, so fucking what? Nothing stops them from going back to business as usual if they lose a single match. It'll probably be a fun match to watch, so, whatever. It just doesn't seem like the match serves a true purpose to the good guys except that they get to say they beat the bad guys, and it seems to me that in this case that'd be a pretty pointless victory.
WWE Championship Match: CM Punk vs. The Rock (c)
Holy shit I cannot wait for Cena to beat Rock at Wrestlemania. Not because I care about either guy, but because then Rock can go back to Hollywood and I won't have to hear anymore of his shitty promos until the next time WWE backs another dumptruck full of money into his backyard. Hearing Rock on the mic has made the transition from mildly annoying to downright unbearable in the last few weeks. There is no point to any fucking thing that he says. Make him stop. Please make him stop. I lose braincells with every syllable he fucking utters. Who the fuck cares about the time he bought a car and then abandoned it in the most irresponsible manner possible back when he was a stupid fucking kid? And don't excuse that shit by telling me it was funny, because it wasn't funny, it was cheap and pointless, just like Cena's pre-Royal Rumble promo about what people do on Sundays. For as many nitpicks I've made on the little failures of the writing in these programs, I would probably rescind all of them if WWE writers followed a simple guideline: do not give John Cena and/or The Rock the freedom to speak for ten goddamn minutes about whatever they fucking want.
CM Punk has made the transition out of his championship reign very smoothly. His character will probably have to evolve beyond its current state - although the idea of a villain who outright believes he is champion in spite of reality is pretty great. Punk now seems a bit crazier, a bit less in control, and that is, I believe, a deliberate inflection, but he's not as interesting a talker as a result. I feel as if Punk is in a bit of a metamorphosis state, akin to the one we saw him in immediately following his attacking the Rock on Raw 1000. I look forward to seeing what becomes of Punk once his feud with Rock is over - his character is centered on the championship and the fact that Rock has taken it from him, and once that context is lost, that's when we'll see what Punk will become.
And lastly, can anybody tell me why the hell you would ever add the stipulation for a face champion to lose the title on a disqualification if the heel challenger has a scheming manager in his corner? All it takes for Punk to regain the championship is for Paul Heyman to run in the ring and punch him. So...what, he gets banned from ringside, right? Look I know it doesn't seem to be Heyman's style to directly interfere in Punk's championship matches, but it seems like extreme times would call for extreme measures, right? Plus he asked for the stipulation in the first place...Eh, maybe a big swerve is coming. Here's hoping it isn't idiotic.
Be sure to share your thoughts with me either here or on Twitter as the show comes up. Also, if you're interested, I've revitalized my Youtube channel, so be sure to check it out.